Daniel Lynch was freaking awesome in 2018. After being drafted by the Kansas City Royals with the 34th overall pick in the draft, Lynch did nothing but dominate his competition in his first year of pro ball. After just 9 professional innings, Lynch found his way to the #14 spot on our mid-season Royals prospect rankings. Now, after just half of a professional season, Daniel Lynch has his name firmly in the conversation of “Royals top prospect”.
After the Kansas City Royals drafted Daniel Lynch in the first round of the 2018 June draft, I will honestly admit that I was a bit skeptical. In my line of thinking, the Royals had an excellent chance to make a huge splash in the draft and signed a pitcher out of Virginia under the normal slot value. He was scouted as a LHP from the University of Virginia (who does not have a great track record with professional pitchers) with an 88-93 mph fastball. His ERA at UVA as a junior was 3.96 and Lynch just (in my opinion) had a very “meh” feeling about him.
Whoo boy was I off. Lynch came out of Virginia and dominated professional hitters with a fastball that was reportedly topping out at 97 once or twice. He was absolutely filthy and after doing some digging, there’s really no other examples of how good Lynch was in 2018.
If you’re a regular visitor of our site, you’ve probably read one of my articles in which I find statistical historical comparisons for current Royals minor leaguers. Here’s the link to the one I did on Royals Rule 5 pick Sam McWilliams, which contains the links to all of the other historical comparison articles.
Well, I went back and tried to do one of these exercises for Daniel Lynch and…well…there’s really no examples of big league pitchers that’s ever done what he’s done in A-ball, at least not at his age. Daniel Lynch is an outlier in Minor League Baseball. Almost any time a 21-year old college draftee dominates a level like Lynch dominated the SALLY, they get promoted. Lynch was held back because the Legends were in the playoff race with the Royals core of young prospects.
So what kind of expectations should we have for Lynch for the 2018 season? What should we hope to see in the next step of his development with High-A Wilmington? Now that Steve Luebber has been named the Blue Rocks pitching coach, Royals fans should be really excited about what comes next for this young core of starting pitchers.
Here’s a couple of things that I’m going to be watching for in Daniel Lynch in 2019:
- I’m curious to see if he can maintain his newfound velocity throughout an entire season. According to the information available at Baseball Cube, Lynch threw 40 innings in 2016, 101 in 2017, and almost 140 innings in 2018. Knowing the Royals traditional pitching development plan, I would expect Lynch to log somewhere in the neighborhood of 120-140 innings again in 2019 (that should depend some on whether or not the Naturals (AA) are in the playoffs or not). Lynch’s velocity jumped a bit when he arrived to pro ball, and I want to see if Lynch can hold that velocity spike through the season. If he can, he’s a certified top 50 prospect in baseball.
- Stay healthy. The biggest thing for any starting pitcher throughout a season is to stay healthy, so maybe this is a bit obvious, but I am going to be so stoked if he goes out there and throws 120-140 innings without any time on the DL. Again, if Lynch throws 120+ innings, shows he can maintain his fastball in the 92-94 range, and continue to find success as he reaches AA, the dude is going to be a top 50 prospect in baseball.
- Maintain a K/9 in the double digits. Daniel Lynch was never a big strikeout guy before 2018. In 2016 at UVA, Lynch’s K/9 was 8.12 in 9 starts and 4 relief appearances. In 2017 his K/9 dropped down to 5.24 in 14 starts at UVA but did rebound to 7.42 in the Cape Cod League that summer. Then in the spring of 2018 at UVA, Lynch’s K-rate skyrocketed to 10.66 and it stayed in the double digits throughout the summer. That’s where I’d like to see it stay in 2019. Most of Lynch’s prospect value will come with his ability to generate K’s from the left side of the mound, and I think he turned the corner in that department in 2018.
So there ya go. It’s hard to base our expectations for Lynch’s 2019 season based on the ghosts of prospects past, but there is plenty left for him to accomplish. If Lynch can continue to ball out this season like he did in 2018, I promise you the national media will begin to pay attention.